Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at the rally in Sonarpur. Picture by Aranya Sen
Calcutta, March 21: Industry may be a dirty word for the Left in this season of elections, but not for Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.
The Bengal chief minister, who kick-started the front’s poll campaign in Sonarpur, made it clear his government would go ahead with its industrialisation drive on a day the ruling Left Front underplayed the CPM-led regime’s stress on industry.
A draft election manifesto drawn up by the CPM for the front also skirted the controversy over acquiring land for projects, apparently to avoid fresh fissures within the alliance.
The draft, being circulated among the front’s partners, doesn’t mention the exit of the Nano project from Singur and the Nandigram violence but makes a passing reference to both places along with new trouble spots like Lalgarh in West Midnapore.
Although it doesn’t mention the word “industrialisation”, the draft refers to projects like the proposed chemical hub in Nayachar — an island near Haldia — which, it says, “would fetch an investment of Rs 92,000 crore following the approval of the central government and provide jobs to a lakh people”.
Front sources, however, said allies like the RSP and the Forward Bloc might not like to retain the reference to the Nayachar project in detail in the manifesto, likely to be finalised tomorrow.
The draft highlights “the increase in the proposals for industrial investment from Rs 63,900 crore in 2007 to Rs 95,000 crore in 2008 despite the Opposition-led hindrances”. It also focuses on the Rs 5,000 crore-plus stimulus package finance minister Asim Dasgupta unveiled last month.
The appeal to voters at the end of the document called for a “comprehensive development in agriculture, industry, service sector as well as the social sector” without prioritising industrial growth.
In Sonarpur, which falls under the Jadavpur parliamentary constituency, Bhattacharjee said Bengal lost the Nano small car project to Gujarat because of the Opposition’s “irresponsible” movement.
“The Nano car, which was supposed to roll out from Singur, will roll out from Mumbai in a day or two. For whose fault did we have to sacrifice the project, which could have provided jobs to 6,000 youths?
“Here,” ” the chief minister went on, “the Opposition wants our farmers and their children to confine themselves to cultivation of potatoes and cucumbers. But we will have to graduate from agriculture to industry which will provide jobs to our youths.”
The chief minister said the Opposition was now trying to stall the chemical hub at Nayachar on the ground of environmental pollution. “Does the Opposition only understand environment?” he thundered. “The chemical hub project,” he added, “has got the approval of the Union cabinet.”
Bhattacharjee said he would go ahead with his industrialisation drive. “Many people have come with proposals to set up industry in Singur. We will have industry there and the land will not be returned. Many more people will get employment there,” he said.
While industry circles see tomorrow’s visit by a team from Singapore as a prelude to greater industrial ties, the Left’s draft manifesto attacks the Trinamul-Congress tie- up as a “rainbow alliance” aimed at “unprincipled opposition” to every development effort.
It also accuses the “anti-national” alliance of conniving with divisive and separatist forces in south Bengal, north Bengal and in the hills.